NEWS IN DETAIL
Premier kicks off visit to Germany today
The political leg of Prime Minister Costas Simitis' visit to Germany kicks
off today in Bonn with talks with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Simitis, accompanied by Alternate Foreign Minister George Papandreou
arrived in Frankfurt yesterday from Vienna for a six-day visit to Germany
which is of a private and official nature.
At the same time that Simitis is meeting with Kohl, Papandreou will have
talks with German Premier Woerner Heuer which, according to informed
sources, are expected to focus on preparations for the EU-Turkey Association
Council in Luxembourg next week and issues related to the Intergovernmental
After his talks with Kohl and a press conference, Simitis will meet with
opposition Social Democrat (SPD) leader Oskar Lafontaine and the president
of the party's parliamentary group, Rudolf Scharping, who is also president
of the European Socialist party (ESP).
Meanwhile, an ANA despatch from Bonn confirmed that Simitis would
eventually be having an unscheduled meeting with German Foreign Minister
Klaus Kinkel at the Greek Embassy this afternoon.
Athens refutes local press reports alleging secret correspondence
The government today denied a report appearing in an Athens daily claiming
that Prime Minister Costas Simitis was "secretly corresponding" with US
President Bill Clinton concerning Greek-Turkish relations.
"There is no secret correspondence between Simitis and Clinton, nor any
exchange of letters," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas said, denying
the report in the Athens daily "Ependytis."
Reppas said former foreign undersecretary Christos Rozakis, who the
newspaper claimed to have recently handed a letter from Simitis to a close
associate of Clinton, "has not only not participated in such a process, but
has not even visited the USA for over a year."
Tzoganis, Karadayi discuss military exercises in the Aegean
The government confirmed today that Chief of the National Defence Staff
Gen. Athanasios Tzoganis had talks on Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart
Gen. Ismail Hakki Karadayi on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels.
Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis said that according to his
information, "the talks between the two are focusing on restricting
(military) exercises in the Aegean during the summer months."
Kranidiotis said however that the talks had not concluded in agreement
"since there is disagreement on the Turkish side both with respect to the
time framework and regarding what we consider an exercise is and is
Romania requests Greece's assistance in dispatching troops to Tirana
Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis said today that Romania had
requested Greece's assistance in despatching its contingent of troops which
will be based in southern Albania as part of the multinational protection
Following Greece's acceptance of the request, Kranidiotis said, the
Romanian contingent will arrive in Greece by ship and be transported to
Albania by Greek vehicles.
"It is a development with considerable political significance," Kranidiotis
Meanwhile, the Hellenic Navy troop vessels "Samos" and "Chios" arrived in
the Albanian port of Durres yesterday with the main body of the Greek
contingent participating in the multinational force.
The remaining 110 troops of the contingent, along with 73 military vehicles,
will leave from Thessaloniki for Durres on Tuesday also aboard the two
National Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos will visit the Greek troops
in Albania on Orthodox Easter Monday (28 April).
Greek humanitarian aid to Tirana
Foreign Undersecretary Yiannos Kranidiotis announced today that an Hellenic
Air Force C-130 transport plane flew to Tirana this morning carrying nine
tonnes of food and medical supplies for the Albanian people.
Kranidiotis said the unscheduled humanitarian aid would be delivered to the
Archbishopric in the Albanian capital on the occasion of Greek Orthodox
Easter on Sunday.
At the same time, he added, another shipment of food and other supplies set
off by road this morning from the Kakavia border post with destination
Gjirokaster in southern Albania, where the aid will be handed over to the
The second shipment comprises 6,000 packages of goods totalling 52 tonnes,
which will supplement a large volume of medical supplies sent over the past
few days by non-governmental organisations.
"These initiatives underline our interest in the restoration of normality,
stability and democracy in Albania," Kranidiotis told a press conference.
US crime experts in Greece
A team of US experts is currently in Greece at the invitation of the Public
Order Ministry for an exchange of experience, scientific data and methods
for investigating and combatting organised crime.
The visit is within the framework of the ministry's efforts to expand its
Meanwhile, within the next few days, an official working group will arrive
from the USA to assist the Greek Police in improving officer training and
organising seminars on issues such as organised crime, financial crime,
narcotics, forgery and the investigation of bomb attacks.
Macedonia-Thrace Bank presents annual profits
The Macedonia-Thace Bank today announced profits for financial year 1996
totalling 2.4 billion drachmas while noting satisfaction with all the
bank's principal magnitudes in general last year.
According to a bank announcement, in 1996 deposits totalled 322.9 billion
drachmas, marking an increase of 27.68 per cent over the previous
Loans grew by 25.56 per cent to reach 205.4 billion drachmas, while total
assets stood at 420.5 billion drachmas, marking an increase of 32.4 per
cent over 1995.
The announcement said the bank's board of directors had decided to propose
to the general meeting of shareholders the distribution of shares gratis
from reserves formed, in the proportion of one new to five old shares.
The board will also propose that the 1996 profits be allocated to form
additional reserves to safeguard against bad and doubtful debts "within the
framework of ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the bank's portfolio."
Commission sees Greece out of EMU start, despite improvements
The European Commission's report on European Union member-states' economic
policies, unveiled here yesterday,noted that despite recent progress,
efforts should be more than doubled to achieve convergence programme
targets in relation to inflation, the public deficit and national
The European Commission ascertained that in connection with the "crucial"
criterion of the fiscal deficit for entry into Economic and Monetary Union
(EMU), in 1997 13 of the 15 EU member-states will fulfill the condition
concerning its decrease to below 3 per cent of GDP set by the Maastricht
Treaty and two will not, Greece and Italy.
However, indicative of the progress achieved by the Greek economy is the
decision taken by the Commission yesterday to lift the threat it had made
against Greece, Spain and Portugal to suspend financing by the Cohesion
Fund, ascertaining that these three countries ultimately succeeded last
year in decreasing their fiscal deficits to levels set out in their
convergence programmes with the remaining European economies.
Greece's deficit decreased to 7.4 per cent of GDP (the convergence
programme anticipated 7.6 per cent), Portugal's to 4.1 per cent (the target
was 4.3 per cent), while Spain achieved its target exactly, which was a
decrease to 4.4 per cent.
The report anticipates that in Greece inflation will decrease to 6 per cent
in 1997 and 4.8 per cent in 1998 (exceeding targets set in the convergence
programme). The public deficit, as a percentage of GDP, will drop to 4.9
per cent in 1997 and 3.4 per c ent in 1998, while the public debt, again as
a percentage of GDP, will amount to 108.3 per cent in 1997 and 104.9 per
cent in 1998.
Ethnic Greek arrested for drugs trafficking
An ethnic Greek from the Black Sea area of Russia was arrested today at the
Promachonas customs checkpoint on the border with Bulgaria after attempting
to smuggle five kilos of hashish into the country.
Vladimiros Minin, 26, told customs officers that he had been given the
hashish by Russians in Kazakhstan to take to Thessaloniki where he was to
have delivered it to unknown persons at a meeting in a hotel in the
northern Greek port city.
Minin had set out for Greece in his own car but was involved in a road
accident in Bucharest and had to take a coach. He was arrested when the
coach stopped at the Promachonas checkpoint in the prefecture of Serres.
Minin appeared before a public prosecutor in Serres and is currently being
detained at Diavata, Thessaloniki.
Albanian premier's hopes for multinational force
Albanian Prime Minister Bashkim Fino said yesterday that he is relying on
the support of the multinational force in Albania for a blow to be dealt to
criminal gangs which "use weapons for obscure purposes."
In an interview with the Athens News Agency (ANA), Mr. Fino also appears to
be hoping for some type "Marshall plan" to bring Albania into a European
He listed the imposition of order, procurement of foodstuffs by certain
regions and the functioning of local authority structures as his country's
main problems. He also placed importance on the preparing for general
Mr. Fino further said that the immediate response by the international
community, including the European Union, the OSCE and the UN, shows its
great concern over events in Albania.
"I am optimistic, however, that this time the aid provided by international
organisations and friendly countries will reach a level allowing for
Albania's full recovery at all levels, both institutional and economic.
There is also word of a 'Marshall pl an' for Albania which would place the
country in a smooth and irreversible European orbit," he said.
Mr. Fino said the problem of disarming the people will remain for quite a
long time, adding that he saw no threat posed by the majority of armed
Greek Ambassador not recalled from Tehran
Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday that Greece had not
recalled its ambassador from Tehran, clarifying that the envoy had gone to
Brussels to attend a meeting and was now in Athens on his regular
Mr. Pangalos said the ambassador would return to his post in Tehran
immediately after the Easter holiday this weekend.
The European Union presidency recently suggested that member-states should
recall their ambassadors from Tehran in solidarity to Bonn, after a German
court accused Iranian political leaders of ordering the assassination of
several exiled Kurdish disside nts in Berlin.
Greece has expressed reservations on the necessity of the recall measure,
drawing a reaction from Bonn, with the German foreign ministry expressing
surprise at the fact that Greece was the only EU country not to recall its
envoy from Iran.
High court circular against racial discrimination
Supreme Court prosecutor Ilias Spyropoulos has addressed a circular to
appeals court prosecutors throughout the country underlining legal clauses
against racial discrimination on the occasion of 1997 being proclaimed the
European year against racism by th e European Union.
The circular highlights the many provisions against racial discrimination
in general, which have already been incorporated in Greek law, such as the
European Human Rights Treaty, the UN treaty on the prevention and
suppression of genocide, the internati onal treaty abolishing all racial
discrimination and the European Social Charter, which rules that there
should be no discrimination regarding sex, race, colour and religion.
Mr. Spyropoulos ordered the strict implementation of these clauses, adding
that in the event of disputes concerning the interpretation of international
agreements, discussions should be organised by the heads of appeals and
first instance courts.
Partly cloudy weather is forecast for most parts of Greece today,
especially in the western and northern regions of the country, Crete and
the Dodecanese. Possibility of showers in the north. Winds will be
northwesterly, weak to moderate. Almost fair weather in Athens where
temperatures will range between 9-19C. May rain in the afternoon in
Thessaloniki where temperatures will be from 7-16C.
Thurday's closing rates - buying US dlr. 270.717
Pound sterling 438.325 Cyprus pd 529.113
French franc 46.719 Swiss franc 184.631
German mark 157.500 Italian lira (100) 15.881
Yen (100) 214.609 Canadian dlr. 193.896
Australian dlr. 209.957 Irish Punt 418.128
Belgian franc 7.640 Finnish mark 52.467
Dutch guilder 140.060 Danish kr. 41.319
Swedish kr. 35.315 Norwegian kr. 38.321
Austrian sch. 22.382 Spanish peseta 1.871
Portuguese escudo 1.570